Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Children and Dogs

He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”- Mark 7:27

It would appear that Jesus was insulting this Greek woman who had come to him asking him to drive out a demon from her daughter. What we are actually seeing here is a witty exchange between the Gentile woman and Jesus. Jesus is aware of her need, but the message he is attempting to get across to her is that his ministry is first to the children of Israel, the Jews. He is "the food of the children" not meant to be thrown to "the dogs" which was a derogatory term the Jews had for the gentiles. The woman in return says, "But even the dogs under the table get to eat the children's scraps!" Jesus rewards her faith which is manifested in her quick wit by driving the demon from her daughter.

The lesson to be learned from this exchange is fairly simple. Jesus rewards people for their faith in him, not for their status. While it is true that Jesus came to minister first to the Jews, his ministry was not to be limited to them. Through Jesus, all people will be brought to salvation. All nations will be fed. All will become "the children" so that there will be no dogs to eat the scraps under the table that fall from the children.

But even more interesting is the context of this story and its place in St. Mark's gospel. Just yesterday we read about Jesus declaring all foods clean, a new teaching for the Jews, and today we hear about Jesus giving to this Gentile woman the food for the children for her faith in him. It is another prediction about the coming kingdom that Jesus will found, a kingdom founded on faith and not ritual law, a kingdom that would include the gentiles who heretofore had been referred to as "dogs."

So, in reality, Jesus was not attempting to insult the woman, but trying to ascertain her faith in him.


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